Oh man everybody. It’s “Lemon of Troy,” the episode where Bart and his pals wage war on their weird doppelgangers on Shelbyville. This is one of the greatest episodes of the series, and I’m so psyched to talk about it.
Things start right off by having Bart wandering around town before running into a patch of wet cement, the greatest siren-song of them all for a mischievous young boy. He runs to the cement, passing up treasure and Professor Frink’s flying motorcycle to get to it. And right away he writes his name in the cement, and has a crazy fantasy about people in Springfield’s future wondering who them mighty Bart was, before using their DNA ray gun to clone him back into existence, where he logically becomes their God. But when he puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece, Marge shows up to bust him, and then gives him an epic lecture on how he should how pride in his town. She talks about all sorts of things that Springfield does better than anyone, and that Bart should feel lucky to be in Springfield. She also mentions the lemonade, foreshadowing the whole plot of the episode.
Bart is a little sarcastic about the whole thing, but he shockingly starts to believe Marge’s lecture the next day as he’s going through town, realizing that Springfield isn’t actually that bad of a place. He goes around town, realizing that Springfield is “a part of us all,” before coming across Milhouse and Lewis making lemonade at a stand. Apparently Springfield makes some great lemonade. But while talking with them, Milhouse realizes they’re out of lemons, so he and Bart head off to the Lemon Tree, a wonderful tree that children in Springfield love. They hike across the city and end up in a park where Database, Martin, and Tod are just prancing around the tree.
The kids take some lemons, loving that they have a good supply of them, when they’re accosted by some kids from Shelbyville, since the Lemon Tree is right on the Springfield side of the border between the towns. The leader of the Shelbyville kids is some kid who acts like a meaner Bart, and whose name is apparently Shelby. The kids argue about which town is better for a while, before the Shelbyville kids ominously leave. We then learn Grandpa was apparently sitting beneath the tree, and the kids all gather around to hear Grandpa explain the history of Springfield and Shelbyville. Turns out the two town have always hated each other, and were founded by the same group of settlers. The settlers were led by Jebediah Springfield and Shelbyville Manhattan, who came out to create these cities which they thought would be ideologically similar. But when they get there Jebediah learns that Shelbyville’s whole reason for coming out here was to make a city where people could marry their cousins, which weirds Jebediah out. So the settlers split into two bitter rival cities, and the grudge was born.
At some point in the future, we see Bart and the rest of the kids in school while Mrs. Krabappel is apathetically trying to teach them Roman numerals, when Nelson bursts in with important news. He tells the kids that something horrible has happened, and that they need to follow him, so they all just leave class. Turns out the horrible news is that the kids of Shelbyville have uprooted the Lemon Tree and dragged it off into Shelbyville. This infuriates the kids, especially Bart with his newfound civic pride, so they decide to storm into Shelbyville and either “get it back or choke their rivers with our dead!”
So the kids start to get ready for their invasion. We see Bart tell Homer and Marge that he’s going to “teach some kids a lesson,” which Marge takes to mean he’s becomes a tutor. Milhouse gets some Army fatigues and a make-up kit so he can become a master of disguise. And then everyone meets at the remains of the Lemon Tree, and make a huge deal about crossing the border into Shelbyville and becoming men, while there’s the hilarious gag of Lisa and some other girl running across the borders while playing with a kite. But after their dramatic decision, the boys cross the border, and begin their infiltration.
Meanwhile, Lisa somehow got back home super quick, and makes a comment to Marge about what Bart and the boys are actually doing in Shelbyville, which gives us one of my favorite Marge lines of all time, “Homer, Bart’s quit his tutoring job and joined a violence gang!” She and Homer then meet up with some other parents in town, and they decide to get in Ned’s RV and drive into Shelbyville to find the kids. And back in Shelbyville the kids have split into three teams, Bart and Milhouse, Database and Todd, and Martin and Nelson, and they begin searching for the tree. We see anything of Data and Todd, but we do see the hilarious scene of Nelson having to begrudgingly defend Martin’s honor, which is hilarious. And while that’s going on we see that Bart and Milhouse have found the Shelbyville kids, and since Bart’s assumption that he can read lips proves to be wrong, he decides to use Mihouse’s make-up skill to sneak into their ranks.
Bart shows up in a black wig and a fake scar, pretending to be a Springfield-hating Shelbyville kid, and the other kids are stupid enough to buy this. In order to gain their trust and learn where the Lemon Tree is, Bart decides to come with the kids to the Bluffs to spraypaint “Springfield Sucks” for all to see. “Curse those handsome devils!” We briefly check over at the parents, who are also running into some issues since even the Shelbyville adults are obnoxious, especially since they “Beat them at football nearly half the time,” which is the saddest brag I’ve ever heard.
But things really start to escalate when Bart goes to the Bluffs with the other kids, and is given the honor of writing the graffiti. But much to the Shelbyville kids’ surprise, Bart instead writes “Springfield Rules Suckers,” and reveals himself to be Bart Simpson, which doesn’t mean anything to the kids. But when he announces he’s from Springfield they freak out and chase him, creating a crazy skateboard chase through Shelbyville. We’re then treated to a bunch of great sight-gags where we see some other doppelgangers like Asian Apu, Moe’s weird biker analogue Joe, and a female Willie. And Bart is finally starting to get away, when he ends up stuck in some wet cement, and since Professor Frink and his rocket motorcycle won’t help, Bart has to hide in the zoo. He ends up getting stuck in some sort of tiger feeding room, which has seven doors all labeled in Roman numerals, which is something no one has ever tried to teach Bart. He radios Milhouse for help, but Milhouse is busy fighting, and then embracing, his dopple when he learns he too is named Milhouse. So Bart has to use his knowledge of Rocky movies to find the Seventh door by finding Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge.
Bart then wanders around Shelbyville, alone and depressed, until we get one of the dumbest and best scenes of all time:
Bart: Oh, it’s no use I’m never gonna find that tree, this whole raid was a useless as that yellow lemon shaped rock over there. Wait a minute, there’s a lemon behind that rock, the tree!
Wonderful. Anyway, with that new clue, Bart follows the trail of lemons to the local Impound Lot, where they’re keeping the Lemon Tree. The other kids catch up, and they start to plan their assault when the parents show up to ruin everything. They are going to make the kids come back to Springfield, until they learn about the tree, and the adults get just as pissed as the kids. Homer leads the adults down to the Impound Lot, where we meet his doppelganger, the father of Shelby. He mocks the Springfieldians, and eats a lemon in spite, promising them that they’ll never give back the tree.
The Springfieldians then start heading back to their town, dejected, when Bart comes up with a wonderful plan that no one in history has every thought of. They pass a hospital and Bart has Ned pull the RV over in the hospital loading zone, and they wait. Eventually Bizarro Homer shows up, and doing his duty as tow-truck driver brings the illegally parked RV back to the Impound Lot, where the Lemon Tree is. The Springfieldians then wait until night and then sneak out to grab the tree. Unfortunately they’re found out and a junkyard dog starts to chase Bart back to the RV, which is made worse when Homer gives the dog the taste of meat when the throws a steak to distract it. But our heroes are triumphant and get the Tree onto the RV, and head back to town while Bizarro Homer and Shelby shake their fists in anger. “Shake harder boy!” But as they leave Shelbyville there’s a great gag where the tree smashes into some archway that says “Welcome to Springfield,” so they end up bringing back a half destroyed tree. And the episode ends with the children of Springfield enjoying lemonade, while the children of Shelbyville drink turnip-juice.
This episode is so wonderful. It was a lot of fun to see the boys get this weird civic pride, and decide to declare war on the evil Shelbyville, and it was even more fun to see the fathers make the exact same decision when they get there. I really love the idea of Shelbyville, and this episode portrayed the bizarre rivalry and hatred the two town share perfectly. Showing the town, and how it was just like a generic store-brand version of Springfield with kind of off-model variations of the townspeople we know and love was so funny, and led to some truly wonderful sight-gags. This episode is chock-full of quotable lines, and really earns it’s place as one of the best episodes of the series.
Take Away: Have pride in your city, and an irrational hatred of the neighboring one.
“Lemon of Troy” was written by Brent Forrester and directed by Jim Reardon, 1995.